The Mail on Sunday
3rd November 2012
By Emily Hill
It’s the must-see TV show of the moment – a gripping spy thriller in which a brilliant but intense CIA agent picks up on the smallest clues in her battle to prevent a terrorist atrocity on American soil.
Yet the makers of Homeland are apparently not quite so eagle-eyed themselves – as the acclaimed series is riddled with the sort of errors and inconsistencies that even a rookie spy might be expected to pick up.
As the storylines get ever more fanciful, fans fear the writers and producers are losing their grip on reality. While devotees are prepared to suspend their disbelief enough to accept that a hero former US Marine turned Congressman could be an Islamic terrorist, other scenes are proving far more unbelievable.
Indeed, some Channel 4 viewers are becoming engrossed not so much in the unfolding drama, but in taking to Twitter to point out the many errors and unlikely plot points. Here we present an unclassified dossier of some of the more ridiculous breaches.
DID CARRIE GET LOST?
Every international counter-terrorism expert needs an intimate knowledge of the world’s geopolitical situation.
But when CIA agent Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes, right, flies to Beirut in Lebanon to meet an informant, she somehow fails to notice she’s clearly wandering around Tel Aviv in Israel.
CIA using Skype in Homeland a Market supposed to be in a Hezbollah stronghold sells T-shirts with Hebrew slogans as well as merchandise for Beitar Jerusalem FC – a club with Zionist roots unlikely to have many fans in Beirut.
And from Mathison’s CIA safe house, you can clearly see the Jaffa Clock Tower, one of Tel Aviv’s most famous landmarks – a howler on a par with putting the eiffel Tower in the London skyline.
But there was good reason for filming in Tel Aviv: Homeland co-creator Gideon Raff is Israeli and Israel’s citizens are barred from Beirut.
HARDLY NAILING THE FUNDAMENTALISTS
Pretty much every follower of Islam in Homeland is portrayed as a dangerous fanatic.
But despite their supposed fundamentalist devotion, they seem to take rather a relaxed view of strict Islamic law.
For example, one Muslim woman, above, was seen praying in a mosque while showing her acrylic nails which – under some interpretations – would be ‘haram’, or forbidden, under Islam.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Brody, the Congressman who was recruited by Al Qaeda (played by British actor Damian Lewis), clearly hasn’t fully understood the cause he is prepared to betray his country for.
He mispronounces ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he prays in his garage.
Even driven but fraught agent Carrie Mathison – a former Arabic scholar – refers to Jumu’ah as ‘morning prayer’ . . . when it actually takes place just after noon on Fridays.
MAKING TWITS OF SECURITY
Secret agents on urgent undercover missions usually do everything to ensure their conversations are not intercepted.
Carrie and fellow agent, Saul Berenson, however, like to update CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia, not via an encrypted phone line – but on Skype… perhaps not the most secure way to brief the boss.
In fact, Saul and Carrie seem to go out of their way to draw attention to themselves, using a far-from-inconspicuous black suburban Chevrolet to cruise through ‘Beirut’.
TEXTING MAYDAY TO ABU? IT BEATS AN APRIL FOOL
The Pentagon has some of the world’s most secure briefing rooms, hermetically sealed from the outside world so no vital information can leak out.
Yet Brody manages to text the message ‘May 1’ to his terrorist chums in the middle of observing an operation, so thwarting the US plan to assassinate Abu Nazir, the world’s most wanted terrorist since Osama Bin Laden.
How? By texting on a BlackBerry he somehow smuggled into the building – and while sitting close to the Vice President.
‘Carrying a personal communication device into that type of environment is just forbidden. No one does it,’ a CIA expert said. ‘In any government building where you’ll see classified information, you are not allowed to bring portable electronic devices into the room – and sometimes not even the building.’ The big question is: What network is he on where he can get a signal in a bunker?
SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S BUGGING US
Terrorists clearly need to make sure they are not being bugged as they plot their evil deeds. Journalist Roya Hammad, an ally of Abu Nazir, does this by the cunning ruse of simply asking Congressman Brody whether his office contains any hidden devices. Genius.
Later on, Roya asks Brody to rifle through David Estes’ office to steal some important information.
Estes is director of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Centre, so Brody shouldn’t expect to find the top-secret files, clearly marked, all neatly in one place, and not covered by security cameras.
Well, guess what . . . they are.
YOU CAN’T GET THE STAFF
A terrorist needs to be spirited away to a safe house – a simple task that’s surely within the job description of even the most lowly of minions.
But not in Homeland. Instead, the job is assigned to Brody – on the very afternoon he is due to give an important speech in front of the vice president. It sounds like the outline for an implausible sitcom rather than an authentic spy thriller: a famous senior politician driving a terrorist around.
To add to the sense of farce, the job doesn’t go well, and Brody ends up killing his charge, known as The Tailor.
Was Abu Nasir’s internationally feared terror network really so short-staffed that Brody was the best man for the job?
CONGRESSMAN, YOU’RE A RIGHT SHOWER
Brody’s job as Al Qaeda’s top cab driver goes wrong when he gets a flat tyre while driving The Tailor. He deals with this – without calling the AA – then runs out of petrol. What a pro. At the service station, The Tailor runs away, and Brody gives chase through the woods.
During a tussle, The Tailor is accidentally impaled on a metal spike. First Brody tries to save him – but is interrupted by a phone call from his wife. When The Tailor starts moaning in the background, Brody shuts him up in the obvious way . . . by snapping his neck.
The Congressman is now covered in dirt and blood. How best to deal with this? Simple – take a shower in a car wash. Not in a bathroom at a petrol station – in the actual pressure wash. Presumably he didn’t need to get tokens to operate it. And, of course, absolutely none of this was captured on CCTV.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE MAD TO WORK HERE
A key premise of the first series of Homeland is that Carrie will not be allowed to work for the CIA if the agency discovers she suffers from bipolar disorder. It seems understandable that a leading espionage outfit might not want to use a mentally ill employee for dangerous high-pressure missions.
But in Series Two, she ends up working for the CIA again, even blowing an operation by letting her paranoia run away with her.
However, all Homeland fans admit Claire Danes’ intense performance is one of the best things about the series – so don’t expect that to change any time soon. Whole blogs have now been devoted to the expression she makes while crying.